Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Haunted by the Great Depression? (12.10.08)

Back in the early 70's my uncle built an addition to his house.  He was an interesting uncle, who also reconditioned an old VW bus for camping and traveling.  But I digress.  My uncle built his addition - himself - with an intriguing purpose in mind.  It was a family room but it was built to survive another depression.  It had a fireplace and an independent heating system.  It had its own bathroom and other amenities you don't usually find in a family room.  More like a studio apartment.  He talked about how, if another depression came, they could shut off the rest of the house and live in that one room. 

We thought he was a bit of an eccentric.

My uncle is now in his 80's.  In a suburb of Detroit.  He's a man who saw the future - before we did.  He's a man who always dressed casually (except for work - he sold insurance).  He dressed so casually, like someone who might be out cutting down trees with Paul Bunyan, that once the police stopped him, in his own neighborhood - as a suspicious character.

My uncle was a man haunted by the depression.

If my uncle were a newscaster, he would not have so casually assumed that college professors were wealthy.  Like Charlie Gibson did.  He might actually insist on broadcasting from Detroit, where the real unemployment and the decline in home values and the number of foreclosures has gotten to be so bad - that the truth needs to be told.  And the people would understand exactly what he was describing.

On Monday we had to get a tire replaced.  It was an interesting experience.  The tire place was freezing cold.  I mean the waiting room, the showroom, and everything!  I had on a sheepskin hat, 2 layers of fleece and a windbreaker, lined pants, and lined boots.  And I was cold  - waiting for the tire to arrive and be replaced.  But I was cold for maybe an hour and a half.  Are we going to see more stores doing that?  Or was it just a fluke?   Will be there be houses unheated and families living in the cold unheated houses?  If they have a house?

Now here's the even weirder part about Monday.  In this freezing tire place, in the waiting room, was a tv.  And on the tv (I hardly can stand network tv) it seemed to be a morning network program - I could deduce that from who the players were.  (weather person, announcers, etc.)  Well, that morning program seemed to have morphed into a shopping network, advertising all sorts of doo-dads and goo-dads (to coin a term).  It seemed to be the purpose of the show.  I couldn't believe it!  The contrast between reality - and that tv show!
If my uncle were a newscaster, I bet he'd tell that story.  The truth.  Along with his solution!

This morning, in the food section  of the NY Times, there was a very informative article, from which I'm going to quote.  It started out being about food, but to my mind it tells us more about how everyday Americans are responding to this economic crisis.  And their fears about how bad things might get:
Americans have been spending more time in their kitchens since the economy soured and food prices began to rise this year. About 60 percent surveyed in July by Mintel International, a market research firm, said they were cooking more often and dining out less frequently.

Tracey Gist, an accountant in Sewickley, Pa., near Pittsburgh, used to eat out five nights a week with her daughters, 9 and 11. She started eating in when gas prices went sky high -- she drives 40 miles each way to work -- and has kept it up. " It starts with the gas prices, and then the price of food and then the heating bill," she said "and the fact everyone is on the verge of unemployment makes you not want to spend because of the uncertainty of the economy."

Sheri Ann Richerson, a freelance writer in Marion, Ind., seems to have canned everything in her half-acre garden that didn't move. She also froze 10 chickens. "Since June we have been able to get by on $20 to $30 a week for food," she said. Ms. Richerson is not a farm girl to whom all of this came naturally. She learned to can from the Ball book of directions. "Some days we started canning at 9 a.m. and didn't finish until 6 a.m.," she said.
Her goal was to can 1,500 jars of food, but the shortage of rings and lids at local stores stymied her, and she and her husband did only 700. All in her tiny 1930s kitchen, so small, the refrigerator is in the dining room.
"We are doing all this to save money," she said. "I think there is going to be a bigger and bigger problem with shortages of food and of money, which will eventually come down to us. When I read about all of these businesses closing, the question is how long people will have money to buy video games, which is what my husband sells."

[italics mine]
Those italicized sentences.  That's why I wrote this blog.  That, and the memory of my uncle.  And concern that the people employed on network tv may have lost touch. 

We mustn't lose touchQuinn hasn'tLux Umbra Dei hasn't.  (And many others who post here, of course, haven't.)

Here's Lux's (most optimistic) metaphor:
I like to think of the crash and the economy as a Pacific NW ice-storm and the Pacific NW forest respectively. After the ice storm, the ground is covered with broken off branches and some trees have even come down. But come spring, the leaves come out and by summer you have to look hard through the foliage to see the white wood of the broken limbs and the split trunks. The forest survives and so shall the economy.
So that's the ice-storm model and it is optimistic.
The fire-storm model is the one I don't like to think about....
Here's quinn's response:
Interesting metaphor. Ever see what happened after the Quebec Ice Storm a decade or so ago, or the hurricane that rolled into Halifax? About what happens after a forest fire in a forest where fires have been suppressed. i.e. They basically lay down flat. the whole THING. Because the big stuff that's stayed up too long takes down the lower stuff, healthy or not. It's ugly. The way a fire catches hold of too much underbrush, and then burns too hot, and takes forests out in ways traditional fires wouldn't. So sure, you get lots of regrowth. But the damage - when the metaphor flips back to human beings and their incomes and jobs - could be pretty awful.
Care to further extend your metaphor to our economy? ;-)
It just so happens that bloggers here at TPM - and elsewhere - are addressing what the MSM may be unsuited, or unwilling, to address.
People complained about who was employed to host Meet the Press.  I think they have a much, much bigger problem.

That's why I wrote this blog.


For some reason the software gremlins would not allow me to get that brown part out of the end of the blog. Probably a preview of the "depression."
I thought the empty blockquote space at the bottom of your post was part of the message :-}
My childhood was saturated with stories about how my mother's family dealt with scarcity in the Depression. Whenever me and my siblings were obviously taking things for granted, Mom launched into her recollections of counting how many peas each of her siblings would receive at dinner on a given night.
I have visited the town in Mississippi where she grew up a number of times and the desperation of that time is still a living memory and a part of what now goes on there now.
So the prospect of hard times returning reminds me that the line between comfort and suffering is exceedingly thin.
Probably Karma wanted it there - there's meaning we need to decode.
My great-grandparents were self-sufficient farmers who lived through the Depression. They never gave up on horsedrawn farming (we still have the two wood wheeled wagons), and never owned a tractor. After their farmhouse was finally sold in the 1980s, the new owners did some renovations and found a false wall in the back of a closet. Behind it was a wall of shelves, filled with canning jars full of half-century old preserves. My dad still thinks there are canning jars full of cash buried somewhere on the property.
How's that for a story?
Very touching story, astral. Thank you.
My dad still tells Depression stories. At one point they had no indoor plumbing or heating. He was in charge of slaughtering the chickens and rabbits for the family dinner table. The grew as much food as they could. He was able to attend a religious boy's high school because he worked after school doing janitorial work. He studied engineering in college because they had a work-study program, where they did 3 months in one and 3 months in another.
My mom tells about how the Detroit neighborhood where she grew up kicked in money to buy a cow, so the kids could have milk.
I've heard lots of sad stories about the depression all my life from my parents. Both their families were poor.
That NY Times piece sure is timely. Last week I decided to start research on a pot garden -- no, not that kind -- to grow some veggies out on my apartment's cement patio.
I've also been digging around here and there to collect 'peasant food' recipes to cut down on grocery bills. Most of it's fantastic, cooks in bulk, freezes well, and makes a complete meal served over rice: curries, stews, dal bhat, just your basic red beans 'n rice... Once I get the freezer stocked, I think I can get down to $15-25 a week on groceries to maintain it.
My next big step is making bread regularly.
My grandmother was 16 when the depression hit. Her mother had passed away previously, and her father died the next year (an air embolism from a doctor drawing blood -- she swears it was murder for his involvement in the miner's union). She very often tells about going to work at 17 to support her siblings, cleaning house for one of the few richer families still standing, and how guilty she felt stealing bread crusts and uneaten food from platters after a party they hosted.
Looks like you've selected an excellent recipe. Many years ago when my husband was a grad student and I was teaching young children, I made all our bread - lovely whole wheat rolls and even pizza - and made a quart of plain yogurt every day. (who knows if things will cycle back again?)
Good to hear that you're thinking about what you might do to save on food! Very creative to grow a garden on your patio!
For months, there were those of us that talked about the upcoming energy crisis, the end of cheap energy, and how that would impact our daily lives and standards of living.
I regularly mentioned books like BAD MONEY by Kevin Philips which detailed much of what is now going on now.
The fact is your Uncle was wrong. Or, more accurately, he wasn't right. There is no reason that this situation had to happen. Indeed, it's not like the great depression of the 1930s -- it's worse and I blogged about that, too. The causes are different and the consequences will be much longer lasting. In the 1930's the issue was a lack of trust, in the 2010's the issue is a lack of infrastructure, resources, and capability.
Trust can be regained. Lacking resources cannot be.
The last 40 years have been about both parties leading us to where we are now. Both parties.
It's been about how people have been greedy and piggy and not willing to align themselves to various realities. Instead it was "party today, pay tomorrow."
Tomorrow has arrived.
Being prepared is never wrong. What a dumb thing to say.
Being prepared for what?
Are you preparing for an invasion of space aliens?
Preparing for a nuclear war?
My point is quite simple: the thing the old man was preparing for is not the thing we are experiencing now. Therefore using that wrong model, you may not be prepared for anything at all.
In the 1930's we still have manufacturing capability, we still had natural resources. We hadn't plowed over all our hinterland top soil. We hadn't transformed our society to be automobile driven. Our currency was not in dire straights for a hyperinflation mode.
You want to prepare for now? I would start with buying a gun. Expect a different level of societal lawlessness (at least for a while) than existed in the 1930s.

Interesting observation about gun buying CT.
It was on the radio yesterday that concealed weapon permit applications had reached an all-time here in Oregon.
Thanks for this Thera.
We have Meet The Press, when we should have Meet The People. Reality TV is a joke compared with the real lives that have been lived, and are being lived, and are about to be lived, in our world.
But we're still in a time when you the latest talking head is, seems to matter most. Which is why my TV sits... off.
Cold is an interesting thing. Found it's crept into my writing a half-dozen times these past weeks. And not just because it's presently, "Light Snow, -18 C Wind Chill" where I sit. But because it's visceral, and when you get poor, if you're in any kind of Northern clime, you get cold. And that shakes a human being.
And kills.
Britain loses so many old and poor each Winter, they began to call it the "annual cull of the old and the cold." 1996/97, the official government report says they lost 48,600 to premature death, due to cold. I don't know if we even keep count. Knew a guy, 10-15 years ago, froze to death in his house. Worked with him, for two Summers. I hope we make it through this Winter, intact. We'll all be more hopeful come Spring, I suspect. Once the cold's past.

Meet the People, wouldn't that be wonderful? Glad you were able to read between all the lines here, quinn.
Strangely, I once experienced "heat" in winter. It was Toronto. The dead of winter. I was pregnant. And I can't believe this, but I recall asking people, "Could you please open a window?" Not that I'd recommend pregnancy as an alternative heating source!
We were very poor at that time. But we had heat. And we lived on a leg of lamb a week, New Zealand lamb being, at that time, the cheapest meat at .49 a lb. (winter of '68-'69)
I am very concerned about the people living on the edge right now. Very concerned.
Our tv turns on once a day. Public tv news. Even then, we can see how the same story is viewed differently by different tv programs. Even the same footage garners different comments.
Once in Spain, I was sitting at dinner time with two of my husband's many uncles, who were priests. Suddenly it seemed that the Spanish news was telling me Argentina and England were at war! I figured it was my Spanish at fault: How could that be? Interestingly, in Spain, the "war" was described as the War over "Las Malvinas" (the Argentinian name) whereas in the US and Britain it was the war over "The Maldives."
Cold can be deadly. So can war.
I read this and all I can think of is the Brenden Frazier (sp) film where he grows up on the bomb shelter. I have to see that movie at least once a year--It is one of the funniest movies I have ever seen.
I just wrote about 1968 being the scariest year of my life--I thought the world was ending. But more banks are in trouble, causing more businesses to be in trouble, causing more unemployment, causing more mortgage foreclosures...Immediately, I just paid $2.59 for crackers I paid $1.00 for a year ago (on sale). Milk has come down with gas prices.
This could be the end of times. As far as cold, when I woke up it was 6 where I am and it will get all the way up to 10 tomorrow. But oil is down 60%-a price that puts us back three or four years.
On the other hand, I wouldn't put five grand down on a car right now.
By the way, Lux sounds a lot like Chauncy Gardener.
I really enjoy your comments and blogs, dickday!
By the way, Lux sounds a lot like Chauncy Gardener.
He does a mean Inspector Clouseau routine that's just hilarious.
only when I'm in the mood. Global meltdowns kinda sour me...
Who's Chauncey Gardner?
British stage actor of 1930's?
Scriptwriter for Life With Father?
Nephew of Erle Stanley Gardner???
So my metaphor was kind of simplistic. You want an image of the financial sector? I will give you an image of the financial sector.
Take a box of Milk Duds.
Put it in the microwave at Hi and set for 10 minutes.
Pull out flaming box after 4 minutes and stamp it out with a meat tenderizer.
Look at what's left...
There's your financial sector.
Jeez buddy, you're kinda lowering the "optimistic" bar I have to try and get under.
Ok ok. The financial sector is like Lux said, only you don't really need to put the box in the microwave. Somebody already set it afire, and when the chocolate got molten, shoved it into your pension plan.
And then the Government pulled it out.
And shoved it down your pants.
And after that you get run over by a steamroller...
After which a sinkhole opens up where you were just run over.
And then... the Ice Weasels come.
Bearing hot chocolate and hand-warmers.
But only if you've been good.
Which some people have.
Sorry Lux.
Couldn't get under the sinkhole eh?
Thanks to Freddy for feeding me those lines.
He still bears you a grudge, Quinn, for sending the paramilitary after him.
ah, here is a description of Chauncey Gardner from my great information source GOOGLE.
"Chauncey, a simple gardener who has learned everything he knows from television and gardening, is taken as a deep thinker by the press and the public. Everyone around him interprets his statements as his own personal philosophy about life, the economy, politics and love. He becomes the talk of the country, a genius, and someone with a political future!"
I think Dickday has pegged me perfectly!

except the talk of the country, the genius, and the political future parts.
Lux, check out the movie, (Being There). Peter Seller's last, based on the book by the brilliant Jerzy Kosinsky, another not-so-optimistic guy with the bona fides to at least partially justify his ultimately self defeating pessimism.
My Dad was born in 1924, and lived his life with an awareness of how close we all stand to economic hardship. There were many times when my sisters and I wondered why he didn't cut loose a bit more. This post is really about frugality. How frugal do we need to be? What are the basic necessities? Will our infrastructure collapse, (partially? Totally?), under the weight of frozen consumer demand for the gewgaws that in part sustain our economy? If that happens how will we get the stuff we actually need to survive? We're now exploring the converse of the axiom of the 80s, 90s, 00s: How greedy can we be and get away with it? What get rich quick scheme/investment should we get behind? What is our wildest fantasy and how can we attain it? Even if we didn't pursue those goals overtly, there is a significant part of our culture that revels in the possibility. While another large part of our culture wonders where their next meal is coming from and when. Koyaanisqatsi: Life out of Balance. We work on these and other issues personally all of the time. Now the interrelationship of individual intention and societal reality becomes apparent, hopefully to even the least observant of us.
So what do we do? Dunno. Probably ought to order some seeds just to be on the safe side. I'm holding off on the guns for the time being.
: ( This was supposed to be a general reply to TheraP's post.
Beautiful comment. You got the post exactly. :)
Miguel: Our current concern is when to go into lock down...If we all stop spending, many, many people are going to lose their jobs. But spending, spending, spending is part of what has gotten us into this mess. Although we have never been spendthrifts, we are more aware now of exactly where our money is going. We are trying to strike a balance between getting as much as we can with our dollars and supporting mom and pops. One small strategy is that when we go out to dinner we are eating/drinking less, but tipping more, thereby attempting to get more money into the pockets of those who need it more.
Aye SI. I don't think there is such a thing as economic 'lockdown'. If there is it will be called starvation. We're always going to need some goods and services, unless we end up in some post Armageddon scenario. If that's the case, then 'seeds and guns' for all my friends. Ultimately I think our economy is heading toward a more modest paradigm of monetary exchange wherein necessary goods and services are exchanged without the expanding markets demanded by investors and current business models. Unless we start trading with extra-terrestrials some scaling back of aggressive marketing to and consumption of discretionary income is ultimately in order given the finite resources of our planet. I guess what that looks like to me is that we live more modest lives, consuming less energy, (smaller, more efficient cars and homes, shopping locally, producing locally, telecommuting, etc.). I don't think we have to go without, just be more conscious and judicious in our choices.
lock down is perhaps a little definition is absolutely nothing but the essentials to live i.e. no more cable, dinner out, lawn service, etc.
Chauncey Gardner is the character that Peter Sellers played in the excellent movie "Being There." He was really "Chance the Gardener" who ended up on the street after his long-time employer died. He was seriously unintelligent. Through a character played by Shirley McLaine, he met a number of influential people who interpreted his simple platitudes about gardening as brilliant insights about economics and other topics. It kind of reminds me of the "great communicator."
My Depression-era grandparents were obscene pack rats. Under the eaves, they had four broken TVs. As we pulled out each one, they kept getting bigger and older. The last one looked to be from the 50's. Another room was full a pile of junk. As we cleared out the junk, we found a sofa underneath. They had kept putting things on the sofa until it was completely obscured.
Admit it, G. If you kept digging under the sofa, you found... little G. Which was the reason they dropped the sofa there in the first place.
TheraP, both my parents were scarred by the Depression. My mother lost her father to meningitis, then the family lost its business and home. They went from being a prosperous merchant family to a single mother raising six kids on a farm. With no social safety net. My father's stepfather also had a business that went under because everyone stopped buying. They couldn't pay the mortgage and the bank foreclosed, but house prices had fallen so much that the house was sold for a lot less than the amount remaining on the mortgage, so his family had 'deficiency payments' they had to make on the remaining amount, and my father and his stepfather and brother had to work for years to pay off the bank. People thought it couldn't happen again. It's happening.
Small farmers on both sides of my family line. My parents were teenagers during the depression but both their families rode it out in farming. Grandfather on mother's side lost his job at Ford in Detroit and moved back to the country. I'm not so sure about my father's side but I think they all farmed too.

All of my grandparents had huge reserves of canned food. More than a month's worth.
That said, this is not going to be a depression. First, it kicked off with an asset bubble (stocks) that led to a run on banks. People took what money out they could; then they stopped spending money, and the massive layoffs began. The Fed at the time didn't have the tools to do much about it. The US government tried all the wrong moves (Hawley Smoot, etc) before embarking on the remaining remedies: deficit spending on domestic projects, and WWII.
Make no mistake, this will get worse before it gets better. And there is no doubt that people will be paring back dining out, entertainment, video games, car purchases, and travel. All of these sectors will shrink. But we all need better food, health care, and education.
The Fed and the TARP program appear to have stabilized the banking system, and there haven't been large scale runs on banks. The Obama administration is already planning massive fiscal stimulus in two key areas - infrastructure and health care. And oil and gas prices are down. Finally, foreclosure relief is in sight. Hang in...

We go back and forth between optimism and pessimism. Our primary way of coping is to figure out the probable worst case scenario, and plan for how we would deal with that.
We are fortunate to have a home in a rural area with some property that is paid for. The house is large enough that we along w/ our kids and their families could live there if need be. We've got enough supplies that we could all survive for a year. It wouldn't be pretty, but we could do it.
We don't THINK we'll need all this, but we sleep better knowing we have it.
What concerns me the most is that during the last depression, we were a different people. Not so spoiled, more moral...we didn't kill each other for fancy tennis shoes. If it happens again, it's going to be ugly. VERY ugly.
We haven't gone into lock down on spending just yet, but we've formulated our plans and are ready to implement. We're still hoping for a deep, longer than usual recession, but we're mentally preparing for the big "D." It is the prudent thing to do.
Ok. Peter Sellers as Chauncy Gardner gets on a late nite show like Johnny Carson. He is nobody, he is everybody--like a morality play from the middle ages. It is pure serendipity that he ends up on the show as a special economic adviser to the President.
So the JC emcee asks him something like this:
The U.S. is in some sort of recession/depression and we are told that you are THE man to come to for advice as to how we are going to get out of it.

Chauncy: Things are pretty dry out there and cold, and the plants are dying at an alarming rate, but after the long winter, comes the spring. A time when we must prepare the earth and plant our seeds.
And, if we do our jobs thoughtfully and with care, the seeds will grow and prosper with the labor and the water we give them.
And then, as spring turns to summer, the plants grow tall and strong and provide us with a wonder crop....
The audience goes wild and gives him a standing ovation. because the audience thinks that Chauncy is providing them with hope for the future and advice that the economy with strengthen.
But Chauncy is not given to metaphors. He would not know what a metaphor was if he sat one one--so to speak. All Chauncy ever did was take care of an old aristocrats garden his entire life and he had never been outside of the estate.
Well, I guess you had to be there. As the title of the movie suggests.
Now with this in mind review Lux' first comment as quoted by Therap.
Signing off.
Actually there's great wisdom there. Could be Buddhist. I once read a Sufi tale about someone who was given the task of gardening. And when it came time to name a successor, it was the gardener, who was deemed most enlightened.
There are two sides to every coin.
There is a strong similarity, but for once I am innocent of cribbing. Simple minds think alike I guess. I have to defer to Ellen, Quinn esq. and others on economic matters-- its not my own area of specialization which is so arcane and has so very few researchers, that even a relative dunce like me could find a few shiny new results to present to a wondering world!

well, not a wondering world.
More like a few bemused or sleepy students at a graduate seminar!
Take a good look at the calendar folks. It's 1929. The ride has just started. Better hold on tight cause it's gonna get pretty rough.
I just pray people don't wait terribly long before they realize that drastic changes are needed in our economy and in how we are organized as a society. Over the past 30-40 years much of the New Deal was repealed or allowed to atrophy. Business has ruled the nation (as it always does) ruthlessly and selfishly and with astounding short-sightedness. What we are experiencing is the logical conclusion of capitalism without supervision or regulation.
As an economic system capitalism requires regulation in order to sustain itself in the long term. Otherwise, capitalism spins out of control in an orgy of excess and unrestrained greed just as we have seen it do in the present as well as in past cycles of boom and bust.
The hell of it is that always prior to the crash (which has just started) there is a period of ostentatious prosperity which is merely a symptom of the feverish greed and thievery taking place in the name of commerce and industry. But that sypmtom is universally regarded as a sign of excellent health during the phase where the illness could be effectively managed. Ironically, only in hindsight is the symptom recognized as a harbinger of disasterous economic illness and that is far too late in the progression of the pathology to blunt the disaster that continues building steam even now. This time, however, they may have taken their binge too far to turn back and recover.
A few of the things that need to come out of this mess in my opinion are:
1. A national health care system not a half-assed "reform" of the health insurance system we have today. If it's socialism to do this as all our allies in europe have been doing for decades much to their great benefit, then so be it.
2. Reinvigorated regulation of industry, commerce and banking that cannot simply be cast aside in the future because some con-men convince some politicians that "modern" business people would never engage in the sort of risky behavior that would crash the economy.
3. Public financing of ALL federal elections that, by it's very nature, eliminates the influence of predatory wealth from the legislative and governmental process.
4. A new minimum wage law that permanently indexes the minimum wage to inflation automatically and that can never be hald hostage again by any party because it gets brownie points for carrying the water for business interests that don't care if workers are paid enough to live on.
5. Reinstitute the Fairness Doctrine in broadcasting and bust up the large national and regional communications conglomerates. Disallow the owning of more than one of each channel, station, paper, etc... in any given market. These two things must be done to prevent future corporate control of our airwaves, etc... as we have now and which so clearly and decisively helped to undemrine democracy in America these past 8 years particularly.
6. Guarantee a college education to every man and woman who qualifies. America can no longer afford an undereducated population and our democracy demands we do a better job of educating the population if we wish the nature of our society to remain free and democratic.
7. Last but not least, drastic and mandatory measures if need be for a crash program that puts the US on environmental sound ground. We cannot afford to dicker and argue about global warming. That time has passed. We must act and do so decisively or we will destroy the beautiful planet we inherited and which belongs to our children and to our posterity. We have no right to destroy the environment, indeed, we have an affitmative and solemn obligation to preserve it for the future so the blessings of this nation are available to them as they have been to us. We must also do this as a matter of national security and protecting workd peace. The less we need oil, the more independent we are. It's just that simple.
All these things and more are now required if we hope to regain our nation's economic, political and social health. If the Democrats in Congress continue to operate on a business as usual basis instead of dramatically seizing the moment they will have early next year to take dramatic and sweeping measures.
Excellent insights, Oleeb. Thanks for your post.
oleeb, I encourage you to post this as its own blog. I heartily endorse all your suggestions. One more springs to mind - how about a maximum wage law? Tied to the minimum wage? (ok, now I'm gonna get hammered!)
Part of the reason for this post was to provide an impressionistic sense of how bad things might be for some and how clueless (willful or not) are some others - in particular the view of reality on tv.
Just imagine kids this Christmas whose parents can hardly buy gifts - but this time around those kids "see" on the tv, every day, that there's another world that totally contradicts what their parents are telling them. (that was not a part of the Great Depression...)
TheraP: This is a great idea. But tie the minimum wage to the maximum wage. Do another blog just on this later.
Intriguing way of conceptualizing a minimum wage. Yes, turn it on its head and tie it to maximum.
Worth a blog.. as you say. All h*ll will break loose, but why not?
Thank you. I might.
As for the kids whose parents have nothing... I know hundreds of such families and see them daily. I have often considered what it is like to have so little but to be inundated night and day with images and stories about people who have (in the eyes of the poor) virtually everything.
The sickening thing is we have had millions in the very straights you describe for years on end and we have done the absolute minimum in terms of alleviating their poverty and helping them become self-supporting. What we are now facing, however, is families in those straights that previously had ALWAYS been able to take care of themselves. It is these families that comprise what could be the spark for a genuinely explosive time analagous to the thirties (remember the Joad family?). When people have the expectation of economic security and stability, not to mention material comfort, and that is taken away things can get quite dicey.
I agree with your analysis. Now that the "haves" are becoming the "have-nots" then, finally, suddenly, there will be a hew and a cry across the land - as if millions had not already and for a long time been "without."
But no matter, now is the time to step up to the plate with a lot of changes.
I'll be happy to recommend your blog! Thanks in advance!
Thank you again TheraP.
My grandpa was a died in the wool New Dealer and he had a simple saying I heard many times in the 70's especially when people started in with all the carping about the poor and black people who were poor and how lazy all the poor people were and hating hippies and liberals and unions and and so on and so forth and to top[ it all off they were voting Republican against their own self interest and that of people just like themszelves and not just the people they thought they had become so much better than. He would say:
"A man gets six white shirts and he thinks he's a God Damn Republican!"
I had innumerable occasions to think of him saying that in genuine disgust the past 30+ years. Now many of those people will be changing their tune and sheepishly and privately realizing that they were not only wrong but dangerously so. And yes, it's those folks who will be the most angry and feel the most betrayed.
I love all this Thera, except the idea about a "maximum wage". That goes too far. People seeking actual wealth (not debt) was never the problem. Now tying salary to performance, that's the American Way, and we have gotten too far away from it.
The problem is how to measure performance. Very difficult in any kind of job.
But the "maximum" wage idea was just a brainstorm. Most of my ideas will never be implemented. Too controversial!
Actually it is a wonderful idea, TheraP! An idea way, way, ahead of its time. You should do a blog on the topic!
How about 10x government defined poverty level?

So if poverty level is set at, say, 20,000 per annum for household of 2 then the income ceiling would be 80,000 per annum. The new "class" structure resulting:
Upper Class: 140,000-200,000
Middle Class: 80,000-140,000
Lower Class: 20,000-80,000
Poverty level:
I think Fred Harris may have had ideas along these lines.

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